10 Epic Australian Road Trips for Backpackers

Ayers Rock while Australian Road Trip

An Epic Australian Road Trip

Australia; A continental land mass of boomeranging throwing sticks, man-eating kangaroos and gigantic expanses of endless red dirt.

And by the way, I mean truly, truly massive amounts of red dirt. In Australia, one can easily drive for days on end without the scenery changing at all and with only the occasional kangaroo – jumping out in front of the car on a suicide mission – to break up the routine. But if you can handle the distances and duck the kamikaze kangaroo’s, the country can be one hell of a setting for some epic Australian road trips.

Exploring Australia

The word Australia is now pretty much synonymous with the word “backpacking”. This is primarily because countless backpackers from all around the world now flock here annually, either to take long working holidays or to try and start a new life. Meanwhile back in the rest of the world, (certainly in India, South-East Asia and South America) it often feels like most of the other backpackers you meet are Australian (closely followed by Israeli). In summary Australia = Backpacking. Right?!

Despite this, the former prison colony has still not really been properly explored save by only a handful of very brave/foolish souls. Australia is massive, it’s red, it’s angry, and it’s often damn well deadly and therefore, most folks (residents and visitors alike) end up sticking to the coast. However, if you want to discover the real Australia then you need to head away from the beach and out into the back. For a proper adventure, you gotta get away from humanity and into the humidity. If you’re going to do that, then you’re going to need to get yourself a car and set off for an epic Australian road-trip.

To help you find the best places to stay during your epic Australian road trip adventure, be sure to check out this post on the best hostels in Australia.

Getting a Car

Firstly, you will need a driving license. A serious traveler may even want to get an International licence although most “Western” licenses (US, EU etc) will be perfectly valid down under. Be sure to get this back in your home country because everything is expensive in Australia.

Your best bet is to buy or hire a car or camper van at the beginning of your travels and then to sell it at the end to other adventurous backpackers. You may even make a little profit if depending upon your bartering skills. There are often amazing deals to be found on hostel message boards, on Gumtree or in traveler themed Social Media groups.

Once that’s sorted it’s simply a case of tossing you backpack in the trunk, firing up the ignition and deciding where to go! (Oh, and putting petrol in. Always remember to put petrol in. For some reason, cars in Australia don’t seem to run without it).

So how much does it actually cost to explore Australia by car? – Check out this post for a detailed Aussie road trip cost report. 

Let’s take a look at some Epic Australian Roadtrips!

A Word on Australian Visas

Pretty much everybody will need a visa to enter Australia. The immigration policies and staff are zealous and you will be given the once over. Travellers from most Western Countries can enter for tourism purposes on an Australian ETA (subclass 601). Whilst these are amongst the easiest type to obtain, do remember to apply before you fly or your risk deportation

1. Gibb River Road – Western Australia

Accessible only by four wheel drive, and completely impossible to do in the wet season, this road is one hell of an adventure. Bringing you 660 km down a dirt track from Broome to Kununurra, you’re likely not to see another soul on the road. Countless waterfalls and natural springs greet you along the way – just make sure to check for freshwater crocs before you hop in! One of the best routes you can take for an Australia road trip.

Australia road trip

Rough but super fun ride!

2. Cairns to Cape York – Queensland

At the northernmost tip of Australia, practically touching Papua New Guinea, lives a place called Cape York. Far from the backpacker trail, it’s an amazing place to explore (other than the saltwater crocodiles lurking in the water, ready to pounce at a moment’s notice – seriously, keep an eye out!). The road travels down dirt roads with many river crossings, so you definitely need four wheel drive, much like most of the best spots in an Australia road trip. As you travel up from Cairns, you’ll pass through Cape Tribulation – a tiny town nestled in the rainforest, with the Great Barrier Reef a mere 30 minute boat ride away. It doesn’t get more idyllic than that.

Australia road trip

Explore Australia like a boss!

3. Darwin to Uluru – Northern Territory

While this one can be done with an ordinary two wheel drive vehicle, the route is definitely far from ordinary. 100 km south of Darwin, you’ll reach the gorgeous Litchfield National Park. With more waterfalls than you can handle, a ton of different bush walks, and a unique (and odd) type of termite mound, you could spend weeks in the park. Continuing south you’ll get a true taste of the Outback, with roads stretching far into the horizon. But don’t worry, you won’t get bored; those suicidal kangaroos will keep you on your toes as you cruise to the red hot centre of Australia. Be sure to stop in at Alice Springs on your way to Uluru to check out traditional Aboriginal art as well as stunning views you won’t catch anywhere else on earth. A great route to choose for an Australia road trip!

Australia road trip

Lovely aboriginal art!

4. Great Ocean Road – Victoria

The Great Ocean Road is widely mooted as the “Greatest” amongst the Epic Australian Road trips. For all those in love with the ocean, this road is an absolute must. Gliding along from surf paradises to massive plunging cliffs, the road is nothing short of spectacular. 275 km west of Melbourne, you’ll find the world famous 12 Apostles, where huge rock stacks rise from the waves. Love surfing (or the movie Point Break)? Get to Bells Beach, the setting of the last scene of the film, as well as Rip Curl’s surfing competition. Be sure to stop in at some of the villages along the road as well – from Victorian era buildings to small fishing communities, there’s something different to see and do all along this Australia road trip route. For even more epic Australian inspiration, check out this post on the best beaches in Australia. 

Australia road trip

Breathtaking route!

5. The Greater Blue Mountains Drive – New South Wales

Mountains in Australia? Blue mountains? Yep, they’ve got more than just kangaroos and koalas out there. Taking you from the metropolis of Sydney to the small town of Leura in the middle of the Blue Mountains, this drive is anything but ordinary. From the Lenolan Caves, filled with crazy limestone formations, to the Three Sisters rock formation, you will find plenty to do in the area. And if you get bored of the main route, no worries! There are 18 – yes, 18 – trails that branch off so that you can create your very own adventure. Choose this Australia road trip route for a truly offbeat adventure!

Australia road trip

Stunning landscape

6. The Nullarbour Plain – West Australia

The long road to Perth takes in 2000km of red Australia as it’s harshest. Its flat it’s long, its arid and it’s a big wide open space so don’t get acrophobic on me now. It’s also an utterly rewarding adventure and one of the best of the epic Austrian road trips you can do. If, however, this all sounds like too much then see Number 7.

Nullarbor Plain - A Great Australia Road Trip

Nullarbor Plain – A Great Australia Road Trip

  1. Tasmania’s Heritage Trail

Tasmania is Australia’s best kept secret. The region boasts beauty in abundance but has somehow escaped consumption by the backpacker trail. This was once the gateway to Australia and was where the original convict chain-gangs were set to work colonising the country. The highwaymen that once haunted these high-ways and by-ways are now gone but you still need to be mindful of those suicidal kangaroos who may surprise you! This is quite a short and pleasant drive so is the perfect contrast to the above.

Tasmania

  1. The Alpine Way – New South Wales

You know you could fit the entirety of old Wales into New South Wales several times over? However, this route is only 121km long so should only take you a few days. The best time to come here is early spring when the snows are melting but you still get the alpine scenery. There are also loads of great, and safe, places to wild camp along the way.

Alpine Trail - An epic road trip

  1. Sydney to Melbourne

    The coast of Melbourne

Ok so we did kind of dis’ the folks who stick to the coast back there. However, the reality is that if you’re gonna fly all the way to Australia, you will most likely either fly to Sydney or fly to Melbourne first. Therefore you may as well make a road trip out of it right? There are loads of little coastal towns along the way (think Summer Bay from Home & Away) as well as idyllic lil’ spots for fishing and bird watching. This trip is also perfect if you’re short on time, an inexperienced explorer or if your car is not up to the harder, inland roads.  Once you get to Melbourne be sure to check out this guide to things to do in Melbourne and to seek out my mate Beddy for the best ice cream in town! To get the full lowdown on the drive between Sydney and Melbourne check out this epic road trip guide. 

  1. Kangaroo Island

If the mainland somehow feels like too big, then take the ferry from Adelaide across to Kangaroo Island. As the name suggests, it’s an almost untouched animal sanctuary so you can expect more kamikaze kangaroos then we care to mention. You can take your car onto the ferry but if you are renting one, please check that the rental company allows you to do this.

Kangaroo Island

Well, that’s all we have room for! It’s time to crank up the engine and set off for your epic Australian Road Trip!

 

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